There are some weird expressions in French and one of them—souris d’agneau, or mouse of the lamb — popped up as a special for lunch last week. In English, it’s a lamb shank, which makes a lot more sense since that’s the part of the lamb it comes from.
A trip to La Rossettisserie for lunch recently started this whole conversation. It’s a simple place tucked behind the façade of a former butcher store in Old Town of Nice.
There are 5 selections from the rotisserie for lunch and dinner. You can choose from chicken, pork, veal, beef, lamb or a combo, all done on a big red rotisserie in the back. For sides, pick from homemade potato purée, roasted potatoes, ratatouille or a salad (spoiler alert, a very nice simple salad comes as a starter-rare for France, but tasty nevertheless).
The day we went, the plat du jour was souris d’agneau (mouse of lamb), known to us as a lamb shank and two of us decided to have it. Joking with the server, I ordered the mouse of lamb with the mousse of potatoes. Whatever you call it, what came to the table was a dark shank (looking nothing like a mouse) bathed in a delicious sauce perched on puréed pommes de terre (apples of the earth if you want another weird French food word) with a hint of pesto swirled through the potatoes.
My other friend went a more traditional route with poulet rôti with ratatouille. The chicken was tender and tasty and the ratatouille made a nice side dish.
Desserts were fairly traditional, and since we all essentially finished a big plate of meat, there wasn’t much room for more than a coffee to finish the meal.
Once I got home, I was curious to see if “mouse of” was applied to other meats. While I’m sure people can (and do) make fun of English, at least we call a shank a shank. In French, beef and veal shanks are a jarret de veau, but you’d probably find osso bucco used more for veal. If you were making an osso bucco of pork, you might fall into the jarret category, but then there’s queue de porc which is actually a pig tail—that’s what comes up when you search for “pork shank in French” on the Internet.
So, if you see souris d’agneau on a menu, enjoy a wonderful braised lamb shank, but if you see rat, it’s a rat in both languages.
Funny update: one of our favorite restaurants had jarret de porc today, so of course I had to try it-delicious!